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In Syria, Shells Rain Down Days Before Cease-fire Deadline

April 5, 2012 at 12:00 AM EDT
Syrian activists dubbed Thursday's government assault on the Damascus suburb of Douma as one of the fiercest yet. But regime officials insist troop withdrawals have begun from the provinces of Daraa and Idlib, and peace envoy Kofi Annan said he expects the shooting to stop by April 12. Judy Woodruff updates the crisis.
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JUDY WOODRUFF: Next tonight, the Syria story.

Amid much diplomatic talk, the killing continues. The current and former secretaries-general of the U.N. seemed to be offering different assessments of what’s going on. And while the world’s major powers keep discussing the issue at the U.N. Security Council, they are not budging from their differing views on what to do next.

Shells rained down on cities across Syria today, days before a cease-fire deadline. Activists said a government assault on Duma, a suburb of Damascus, was one of the fiercest yet, all of this as United Nations peace envoy Kofi Annan said he expects the shooting to stop by April 12.

He addressed the U.N. General Assembly via video link from Geneva.

KOFI ANNAN, former U.N. Secretary-General: We must silence the tanks, helicopters, mortars, guns and stop all other forms of violence too, sexual abuse, torture, executions, abductions, destruction of homes, forced displacement, and other abuses, including on children.

JUDY WOODRUFF: The Annan plan calls for Syrian forces to withdraw from cities and towns by April 10. A full cessation of violence would follow within 48 hours.

Syrian officials insisted they have begun withdrawals from the provinces of Daraa and Idlib and the resort town of Zabadani. But the opposition said, in fact, government troops continue to man checkpoints in those cities.

Back at the U.N., Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon appealed to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to show vision and leadership.

BAN KI-MOON, United Nations secretary-general: The situation on the ground continues to deteriorate. Violence should have stopped months ago. Indeed, it never should have started, particularly since it was unleashed in response to the legitimate demands of the Syrian people.

JUDY WOODRUFF: The U.N. Security Council called today for Assad to act now to halt the fighting. But it stopped short of saying more, and diplomats said Russia and China had ruled out stronger language.

The U.S. ambassador to the U.N., Susan Rice, voiced skepticism that Damascus will comply with the cease-fire deadline.

SUSAN RICE, United States ambassador to the United Nations: We have heard statements by the government that they intend to begin to take steps to meet their obligations under their agreement with the joint special envoy. As I’ve said in the past, we will be looking at actions and deeds, rather than their words.

JUDY WOODRUFF: In Paris, French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe agreed. He complained that “Assad is deceiving us.”

Meanwhile, Syrian refugees continued to pour over the border into Turkey. Officials there counted nearly 2,400 new arrivals in just the past day.